While her first two albums intermittently hinted at her full potential, singer-songwriter Mindy Smith was often hamstrung by both her lapses into naïvete and preciousness and a gauzy production style that was tepid even by ever-dulling Americana standards. Smith’s latest, Stupid Love, goes a long way toward correcting those earlier mistakes, and it easily stands as her most accomplished, most substantial record. There’s a surprising heft to the production here: Punchy single “Highs and Lows” boasts a terrific rhythm track that’s perfectly layered for headphone listening, closer “Take a Holiday” is a near-perfect slice of ‘70s-era AM radio pop, while the heavy reverb in the vocal track on “If I Didn’t Know Any Better” gives the song a real structural sophistication, sounding as though Smith is being chastised by a full choir of voices in her head. Her performance on that track is perhaps the best example of her growth as an interpretive singer, as she gives an effective, darker reading to one of Alison Krauss’s best singles. The melancholy tone of the album suits Smith’s voice well, as there’s a natural sadness to her timbre that makes songs like “Love Lost” and “Couldn’t Stand the Rain” fully convincing. She does begin to repeat herself to diminishing returns toward the latter half of the album (“I’m Disappointed” has a couple of awful grade school rhymes, while “Surface” drowns its lovely melody by playing like an interminable dirge), but Stupid Love impresses for its thematic focus and the leap forward in maturity in Smith’s songwriting. Having her heart broken seems to have done Smith a world of good.
- Release Date
- August 10, 2009
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